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£540 million government spend on “behavioural change”

By Angela Harbutt
August 11th, 2009 at 12:45 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

Goverment behavioural correction dept


I have been away in sunny USA for a few weeks so apologies for being slow off the mark on this one.But did anyone else notice that COI spend has jumped by almost 50% in 2008/2009 to £540million ?

(The COI is the somewhat Orwellian sounding “Central Office of Information” by the way)

Inspection of the COI annual report and accounts reveals some further interesting titbits. Spend on “news and PR” grew by 52% year on year from £26.9m to £40.9m – that’s surely “spin on spin” to you and me. And whilst we are used to talk of government spend in the billions, £40million is a hell of a lot of money to spend on spinning the spin.

Further, I note the salaries are listed for these peddlers of Government corrective behavioural programmes information: Chief Executive: £150,000 , Deputy Chief Executive:£125,000, seven directors on somewhere between £90,000-£100,000) and that is as nothing compared to their (very very) nice government pension plans – the deputy chief executive has a cash equivalent transfer value of £844,000. Nice work if you can get it.

Can anyone tell me why the government spending on advertising and marketing is soaring at a time when businesses are cutting back and we are desperately short of money in almost every area of life we look?

Their answer is that that the cost increase was driven by the need of the government to “tackle behavioural change” (according to the COI Chief Executive this is on areas like obesity, climate change, smoking etc) ….hmmm.. This does not really speak of government information. More like the government spending my money telling me how I should behave. 

My answer as to why government spending on “information” has spiralled out of control is simpler but perhaps less palatable.

There is a causal relationship here – the more government seeks to pay for everything, the more government then feels the need to correct our behaviour to match its budgets. Obesity costs the NHS £x so we need to spend money preaching on peoples eating and exercise habits to reduce the cost of treatment. But goverments have made people dependent on the state. Why should people take care of their own health if they can get a gastric band and a nice nip and tuck on the NHS when it starts to endanger their health? If people were weened off government nannying and relearned to take responsibility for themselves, we would all be a lot healthier, wealthier and wise.

Unfortunately that does not suit the current governments’ ideology and certainly does not suit all those civil servants taking home their very nice salaries and golden pensions. Turkeys and Christmas come to mind. 

So here we are seeing, frankly, obscene amounts of money spent telling us how to live our lives. My view remains the same – that given the opportunity people will do a much better job of looking after themselves than the government ever can. And you wont stop the spiralling spend on “government information” until we remove their creeping involvement in our lives